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Patient Safety Advocates Urge the Creation of a National Patient Safety Board to Fight Medical Errors

News Release
Consumers Union
Public Policy and Advocacy Division of Consumer Reports
Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Patient Safety Advocates Urge the Creation of a National Patient Safety Board to Fight Medical Errors

Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project to Highlight Need in Senate Testimony

WASHINGTON, DC – A network of patient safety advocates is urging Congress to take steps to improve patient safety by preventing hospital acquired infections and other preventable medical errors. The group, which includes Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, recently sent a letter to House and Senate lawmakers calling for the establishment of a National Patient Safety Board and additional Congressional committee action to improve the quality and safety of care.

Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project, said, “Hundreds of thousands of people enter the hospital each year for treatment of one ailment, but end up losing their lives due to another. Millions more survive but often after substantial health and financial losses.  Efforts to eliminate these preventable errors and infections must be stepped up to address this crisis – the third leading cause of death in the U.S.”

McGiffert will highlight the need for a National Patient Safety Board and other efforts to improve hospital safety in her testimony at a Senate Health Subcommittee hearing on Thursday, July 17. The proposed safety board would be modeled after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and investigate instances of medical harm. The hearing, “More Than 1,000 Preventable Deaths a Day Is Too Many: The Need to Improve Patient Safety,” is scheduled to begin at 10am.

“We’re calling on Congress to create a National Patient Safety Board to ensure that we investigate medical harm cases properly and institute preventative measures to protect consumers. Just as the NTSB has made our airline industry safer for passengers, a National Patient Safety Board would improve the quality of care in hospitals and elevate patient safety by significantly reducing patients’ injuries and deaths from preventable medical errors,” said Yanling Yu of Washington state, lead organizer of the Congressional letter.

Medical harm is now the third leading cause of death in the United States. Reports show that one out of four hospital patients is harmed by adverse events. At the national level, it is estimated that as many as 440,000 patients die each year from preventable medical harm, including 75,000 deaths from hospital-acquired infections alone. And according to a recent Commonwealth Fund report, the U.S. ranks at the bottom among 11 advanced countries both on aggregate score and many individual health care measures such as outcomes, quality, and efficiency.

To read the full letter, click here or visit www.SafePatientProject.org. For more information on the Senate Subcommittee hearing, visit www.Help.Senate.gov.

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Media contact:  Kara Kelber, kkelber@consumer.org202-462-6262